the winds thrashed that night. and the rains did too. came down hard and heavy, like nails from up above. pelting nails.
on nights like that the trees bend and toss. make you forget, nose pressed to glass, watching, staring, gasping right out loud, that trees are made of wood not paper.
makes you wonder, on nights like that one, how the wild things survive. how the dawn comes, and the dewdrops glisten. how the birds shake off their sodden feathers, fly again.
only, sometimes, they don’t.
you tiptoe out in the morning, survey the world that’s yours as the light comes up, casts its gold-drenched illumination, like a blanket rolling toward the west. your naked toes drink in the bath that is oozy lawn, two parts mud, one part grass.
you count the fallen things: the poppies pummeled, crepe-paper petals strewn, so much sad confetti; the peonies waterlogged and dripping, necks bent, noses pressed into the earth, fuchsia washrags in the end, their short, short season cut even shorter.
it is all the heartache you come to know, come to weather, when you love a garden year after year after one disaster or another.
but then, sometimes, some holy blessed heart-breaking times, you stumble on a fallen something that draws you to your knees. that draws a gasp from your heart and lungs.
it’s not something you see maybe more than once a lifetime. it’s not something you want to see. not tumbled to the ground anyway. not tousled, cracked. before your toes and eyes.
not when it’s a nest, a perfect robin’s nest, all mud-daubed, sticks and stems on the outer rim, for stability. and tucked within with grasses finer, softer, where the eggs will gently lay.
where the eggs are now, as you’ve stumbled upon it. where the eggs, two of them at least, still are perfect ovoid realms of possibility.
but the third is cracked. and you can see straight inside, to flesh and blood and little bird, formed and forming. till the winds and rain and tumbling came, that is.
and there’s no mama robin in sight. and you can’t hear her either. can’t hear her mournful cry. for she has lost her nest, and babies too.
and you can’t bear, quite, to swallow all of this. to make sense of this.
how so perfect a springtime construction can be tossed and whipped by winds and rains and trees that bent like paper.
my mama was the one who found it. of course my mama. she’s the one who knows her trees, her wild things, by heart. she lets no day dawn without her keeping close watch. she makes it her job to be the caretaker of all this wonder.
she tracks the comings and the goings of all the babies–ducks and deer, raccoon and robin. she knows generations, even.
year after year, they return to her, the wild things of the woods that surround her.
the ducks–mr. and mrs. mallard, she calls them–cross at the sign she has posted on her mailbox–SLOW. DUCK CROSSING–so the cars might pause where the mallards make their passage from the creek on one side, to my mother’s cracked corn on the other.
mama deer bring their fawns. nestle down atop the ivy beds, close to the house, where they know, i suppose, that they’ll be safe, tended to, while the mamas make feast of my mother’s gardens.
more than once, a mama deer has left her spotted little one at my mama’s all day long. came back at dusk to fetch the wobbly thing. deer daycare, i suppose. smart choice, i say, commending mama deer. i, too, made the same choice, when it came to caring for my little ones.
and so, of course, it was on my mother’s early morning rounds, the morning after that nasty noisy storm, that she found the nest and eggs that tumbled down.
in my mama’s book of rules, you do not leave a sacred something lying there abandoned. as if a discard.
there are no discards when it comes to nature. only lessons to be learned. and mercy studied.
and so my mama lifted it, the nest and all its eggs. slipped it in a bag, and brought it here, to where i type.
left it lying beside my keyboard, so i too could study its perfection. its heartbreak. its potential so abruptly wrenched from the safety and sanctity of the mighty oak’s gnarled limbs.
i take these lessons from above quite to heart, of course. i am my mother’s daughter, after all. don’t take it lightly that i am blessed to peer inside a mama robin’s grassy labors.
i am again and again enchanted by the brilliant know-how of the birds, how they know to make the nest just so, sturdy on the outside, soft and soothing where the babies would have hatched.
i muse, of course, on how all of us are born knowing the fundamentals of construction–how it is, at least, we build our nests for the ones we hatch and love.
i consider, too, the emptiness of that mama robin’s belly. how she must be longing still to press against the warmth of those bright blue eggs, where perhaps she felt the stirrings of the life within.
there is much to learn contemplating how mud and sticks and grass combine to build a nest. and how the wind and rain and bending trees could toss it all away.
i consider the thud that must have been, when the nest came tumbling down, stopped hard against the ground. and how that thud echoed in the empty heart of that blessed mama robin.
once again, lessons left for me to learn. thanks be to my very own mother nature.
did you have a chance this week to stumble on a lesson left–in any form–by the hand of mother nature? or some other week, perhaps? do tell…..
as i type this my mama is flying east, into the sunrise, to behold for the first time her grand-daughter. the thought of it fills me with tenderness. my mama waited a long long time to meet that little girl. i wait still….my time will come. i pray for time for the two of them to learn together the lessons of the woods….she is some teacher, my mother nature…